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8 lead generation strategies for small businesses

Sales manager using laptop to work on lead generation strategies

Key takeaways

  • Use lead generation strategies like content marketing and lead magnets to grow your contact list and help your brand build strong relationships that drive sales
  • Qualify leads to focus your sales efforts on contacts who are most likely to make a purchase
  • Leverage marketing automation tools to streamline your lead gen and lead nurturing efforts

Have you ever wondered how your business can close deals faster? Long sales cycles can be a frustrating norm, but your marketing efforts can play a role in speeding up your revenue growth. A strong lead generation strategy not only gets your brand in front of your ideal customers but it also enables you to build relationships that can help you make sales more efficiently.

Learn how to generate leads in sales and make the most of your growing contact list so you can reach the right leads who actually want to hear from your brand and ultimately become paying customers.

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is the process of attracting potential customers and collecting their contact information. Lead gen includes all the marketing tactics used to grow your contact lists.

Once you have a way to reach out directly to a shopper—whether it’s through text, email, snail mail, or another communication channel—they become a sales lead who you can regularly engage with as they make a purchase decision.

Why is lead generation important?

Lead generation enables your small business to efficiently acquire customers and accelerate revenue growth. As potential customers make their way through the sales funnel—moving from initial brand awareness to sealing the deal—you and your sales team can increasingly build trust with leads by scheduling regular outreach.

Lead generation works because strong relationships and rapport can help you stand out from your competition. Ongoing communications keep your brand at the front of mind, boosting the likelihood that your potential clients will become paying customers.

Rather than investing your time on outbound lead generation efforts like cold calls, which require you to start relationships from scratch every time you pick up the phone, you can make focused efforts to engage and persuade contacts who are already aware of and interested in your brand. This could drastically reduce the average amount of time and money you need to invest into each sale, boosting your return on investment (ROI).

When you (and your marketing team) understand how to generate leads in sales, you can quickly develop a smooth sales pipeline that consistently grows your customer base.

What are the different types of leads?

Lead generation: a young man using his laptop in a cafe

Generating sales leads can be exciting, but your new contacts won’t be ready to hear a sales pitch right away. It’s important to recognize where your leads are in the buyer’s journey so you can communicate the right messages at the right times. Learn how three common types of leads differ and how to tailor your approach during the sales process.

Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs)

Marketing-qualified leads have engaged with and shown interest in your lead generation campaigns, perhaps by filling out a contact form. They’re more likely to become paying customers than people who simply visit your website or social media profile. However, they’re likely seeking more information and are not ready to make a purchase.

Sales-qualified leads (SQLs)

Sales-qualified leads have made it further in your sales pipeline than other prospects. They’ve shown clear interest in making a purchase—for example, by scheduling a call or replying to an email campaign with a question about your business—and are ready for direct sales engagement.

Product-qualified leads (PQLs)

Product-qualified leads have not only shown interest in making a purchase but have also used your product or service. For example, if a prospect expresses interest in becoming a paying customer after completing a free trial or signing up for a complimentary session or treatment, they are a PQL.

8 effective lead generation strategies

Learning how to generate sales leads begins with understanding the marketing channels you can use to attract, engage, and capture the contact information of potential customers. Implement these marketing strategies to build a lead generation process that effectively grows your contact list—even if you have a limited advertising budget.

1. Email marketing

An email marketing manager using his laptop

Nearly half of B2B marketers (those who sell products or services to other businesses) agree that email marketing is the most effective tactic for generating quality leads. If you have a brick-and-mortar that sells directly to consumers, email marketing is also an ideal strategy for generating leads. When people actively sign up for your email list, they typically want to hear from your brand with helpful content and offers. As a result, the email leads you generate might be close to making a purchase.

Creating a weekly, biweekly, or monthly email newsletter that offers useful tips and insights for potential customers is an effective way to build your email list. For example, an auto mechanic can offer a newsletter packed with car maintenance tips and seasonal discounts.

If you want to make your email newsletters more appealing to potential leads, you can create separate newsletters for different segments of your target market. For instance, an auto mechanic could promote one sign-up form for motorcycle maintenance insights and another for car maintenance tips. Taking this more personalized route will naturally segment your email list, allowing you to send highly targeted campaigns to customers based on their specific interests and characteristics in the future.

After creating a plan for your email newsletters, promote it on your marketing channels, including your website and social media platforms. Be sure to include a call to action (CTA) like “sign up here” that directs potential customers to your email opt-in form.

2. Social media

Social media marketing has become a critical lead sourcing platform for modern businesses. In fact, 82% of people in the U.S. have a social media profile (2021), and 43% of consumers use these platforms to find products and services.

Leveraging social media apps like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to drive audience engagement is a great way to boost your lead generation efforts. Consider using these platforms to share brief insights that demonstrate your industry knowledge, fun behind-the-scenes footage of your business, and other short-form content that piques your audience’s interest.

As interest and engagement with your brand grows, users may initiate interactions with your business—whether in the comments section or in your inbox—allowing you to keep a conversation going, strengthen your customer relationships, and even make a pitch.

3. Yelp

One of the best ways to generate sales leads in your area is by promoting your business on Yelp. Users on the platform are not only looking for local businesses, but they’re also typically ready to make a purchase—in fact, 83% of users hire or buy from a business they found on Yelp.*

When you add or claim your Yelp Business Page, you can start attracting potential leads by updating your business information, including your business hours, contact information, website, and location or service area. You can also upload images that show customers your high-quality work or products. This can help users weigh your business against competitors while giving them a reason to reach out to you.

If you want to accelerate your lead generation, take advantage of the free Request a Quote feature, which appears as a CTA button on your Yelp Page. Interested users can tap to request a quote, appointment, or more information (depending on your industry), which prompts them to submit details about their needs. You can turn on real-time notifications on the site or app to ensure you’re made immediately aware of new leads and can follow up with them promptly.

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4. Content marketing

One of the best ways to generate sales leads is by creating valuable content that attracts your target audience. Consider writing blog posts, whitepapers, and other forms of content that put your industry expertise on display.

High-quality content gives potential leads in-depth answers to the questions they might have—for example, “how much is a fill for dip powder nails?”—helping you deliver value, build trust, and encourage readers to reach out for more information, even if they aren’t ready to buy.

How do you generate sales leads through your content marketing? You have a couple of options. First, you can include a call to action (CTA) in each piece of content that encourages the audience to provide their email or reach out to learn more. Alternatively, you can offer “gated content” that people can only access after they provide their contact information. This lead generation method is most successful when you’re offering content clients can’t get for free anywhere else—such as industry survey results or long-form e-books.

5. SEO and SEM

Search engine optimization (SEO) includes a large number of tactics you can leverage to improve the quality of your website and, as a result, rank higher on relevant search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO can drive more traffic to your site, helping you get more eyes on your marketing message and increasing the odds that potential customers will become leads.

SEO can take a while to perfect so this is a long-term effort. A wide range of ranking factors, from website speed to domain age, can influence your site’s visibility on search engines. However, adding keywords to your website is a great place to start.

Use a free keyword research tool to find highly relevant search terms, like “Miami brow lifts” or “best microdermabrasion services,” that people are actively using. Include these keywords in your content to tell search engines which SERPs each of your web pages should rank higher on.

To elevate your search engine marketing (SEM), you can also leverage paid search. Search engines like Google and Bing offer paid ads, which allow your desired web pages to appear above organic (unpaid) results for relevant search terms. If you choose to run paid ads, include a contact form and CTA on the page you’re driving users to.

6. Lead magnets

Marketing manager using her laptop to create a lead capture form

Lead magnets are free resources you offer to shoppers in exchange for contact information, and they can help you attract more potential leads. These incentives—which can include exclusive discounts, free trials, instant quotes, and substantial pieces of content like webinars, whitepapers, and case studies—offer value to your target market. As a result, these lead magnets turn your website into a hub for generating inbound leads who are already seeking similar resources.

Think about what information your clients might be looking for while researching products or services like yours. For instance, a mortgage company could attract real estate investors by offering a whitepaper on market trends and expected changes in future mortgage rates.

Once you create your first lead magnet, promote it on your site alongside a lead capture form. You can also use website pop-ups and other channels, like social media platforms, to further market your lead magnet.

7. Landing page optimization

Landing pages are standalone web pages that appear when potential clients click on an ad or search engine result. Typically, these pages are built with a specific target audience and their needs in mind—and they’re designed to turn those potential clients into leads. As an example, a plastic surgeon could make separate landing pages for people searching for brow lifts, nose reshaping, and Botox.

So how do you optimize your landing pages for lead generation? Boosting your lead conversion rate—the percentage of visitors who become sales leads—starts with understanding your market segments, which are groups within your client base that share a specific need, even if they simply come from the same city or ZIP code. This will help you cater your landing pages to each market segment. For instance, you may create individual landing pages that share pricing and benefits for each plastic surgery service.

If you want to get leads fast, each landing page should also include:

  • Clear CTAs, such as “learn more” or “book your first appointment,” that encourage visitors to take the next step and provide their contact details
  • Compelling headlines that include keywords your audience may be searching, like “Austin brow lifts” or “best Botox services”
  • Concise lead capture forms that make it easy for visitors to submit their contact information

8. Referral program

Online marketing can help you acquire leads fast, but there are effective ways to generate leads in sales without fully relying on digital channels. Building a referral program is a simple way to leverage your existing network to drive high-potential contacts to your business. Referral programs encourage your existing customers to promote your business on your behalf—and it doesn’t have to cost a dime until you’ve already made a sale.

Starting a referral program is easy. Simply offer your current customers an incentive—such as a gift card or a free product or service—in exchange for each successful referral. Even if some referrals don’t make a purchase right away, they can still be valuable leads who you can keep in touch with in the future.

What’s the lead qualification process?

A young sales manager using his laptop in office

If you want to spend your time wisely—or help your salespeople make the most of their efforts—focus on the contacts who are most likely to buy. This is where lead qualification comes in. Lead qualification is the process of evaluating how willing and able your leads are to buy from your business. As such, you can determine which contacts are worth spending more time and effort on.

One of the most well-known lead qualification methods is the BANT framework, which assesses leads in four key areas:

  • Budget: Does your lead have the financial capability to buy your product or service?
  • Authority: Is your lead a final decision-maker? For example, are they a business leader rather than a consultant, or a parent rather than a child?
  • Need: Does your lead actively need what you sell? Does your business directly solve their pain points?
  • Timeline: How much time does your lead need before they make a purchase decision?

Qualified leads will align with your expectations in each of these areas. These contacts tend to be better leads because they’re more likely to make a purchase fast enough that your business will still earn a profit margin after all your sales efforts. Some marketers also take demographics—such as age, industry, company size, and location—into consideration, while others may assess behavior, like past purchases and website interactions.

3 top lead nurturing strategies

Effective lead management involves more than high-quality lead capture. Once you start growing your list of contacts and know how to identify the best leads, it’s essential to keep building your potential customer relationships and consistently follow up. This process, called lead nurturing, helps you persuade prospects to purchase what you’re selling—often by showcasing your brand’s expertise and educating leads about the value of your solution until they’re ready to buy.

Consider using these three lead nurturing strategies to help your target audience feel confident about buying from your brand.

1. Personalized email marketing campaigns

Create drip campaigns—a series of automated emails—that, one message at a time, provide the information your leads need to make a purchase decision. You can use these emails to provide targeted content, overcome common sales objections, offer product comparisons, and persuade new leads to schedule a sales call (or even make a purchase).

Be sure to develop different drip campaigns for different segments of your target audience. By tailoring your message to the needs of specific shoppers, you can improve your lead nurturing success.

2. Exclusive offers

If you have a price-conscious audience, offering an opportunity to save is always a great way to turn leads into customers. Sending an exclusive offer—a discount that’s tailored to their interests—is an even more effective way to drive your contacts to buy. This lead nurturing tactic even allows you to leverage your potential customer’s fear of missing out (FOMO) and spark prospects into action by setting an expiration date on the offer.

3. Retargeting ads

Retargeting is a marketing strategy that involves displaying ads to current leads or people who already visited your site. It helps keep your business at the front of shoppers’ minds as they consider their options. Many ad providers, including social media platforms and search engines, allow you to run these types of ads in one of two ways: uploading a contact list or adding a piece of code to your website that tracks visitor behavior.

How can marketing automation help with lead generation?

Many businesses use lead generation tools to streamline their marketing efforts. Automation tools can enhance efficiency and provide insights that help you boost your sales success. Four common types of useful automation tools include:

  • Customer relationship management tools (CRMs): Software like Pipedrive and Zoho CRM can help you keep track of your leads—in many cases, instantly recording lead interactions, automating emails, and providing lead scoring automations to help your sales reps prioritize.
  • Chatbots: Live chat software like Intercom and Acquire can help you engage with website visitors and answer their questions around the clock, capturing contact details on your behalf.
  • Sales intelligence tools: Lead data tools like D&B Hoovers and ZoomInfo can provide more insight (such as detailed information on company revenue, contacts, email addresses, and phone numbers) into your current and potential leads. As a result, you can better tailor your campaigns to your contacts.

Whether or not you’re using software to speed up your lead gen, it’s crucial to comply with data privacy laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which give people more control over how you handle their personal data, including their contact details. When you follow these rules while running marketing campaigns, you can avoid costly penalties while keeping the trust of your new leads and existing customers.

Measuring lead generation success

Learning how to get new leads in sales in an ongoing process. The best tactics are different for every brand. Keeping track of key performance indicators (KPIs)—metrics that gauge the success of your lead generation efforts—is key to figuring out how to generate sales leads more effectively.

Marketers often track these KPIs when focusing on lead gen:

  • Lead conversion rate: The percentage of people who become a lead after visiting your website or seeing a particular campaign.
  • Sales conversion rate: The percentage of leads who become paying customers within a specific period of time. This can indicate the quality of your leads.
  • Cost per lead: The average amount you’re spending on marketing for every lead you gain.
  • Customer acquisition cost: The average amount you’re spending on sales and marketing for every paying customer you gain.

Elevate your lead generation

When you want to grow your customer base, boost revenue, and sell more efficiently, it’s time to focus on lead generation. By putting lead gen strategies—such as SEO and Yelp marketing—into action, you can gain an ever-growing list of contacts who are interested in your business.

That said, effective lead sourcing isn’t enough. Once you capture leads, you also need to nurture them—staying in touch, building trust, and overcoming sales objections until your prospects make a purchase decision. And you need to track KPIs to keep improving your lead generation success.

Ready to take the next step? Learn how to attract and convert targeted leads.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.